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The declining Virgin Islands moral culture

March 17th, 2017 | Tags: Dickson Igwe morals culture compassion money crime
Dickson Igwe. Photo: VINO
Dickson Igwe

The callous murders of Kendoy Penn, Nickeria Smith, Alston Penn and Ashburn A. Dawson point to a community that has compromised its moral culture. The question is asked: has the Virgin Islands sold its soul to Mammon?

Unsolved murders increase as significant numbers of people in the community help cover up the murders and protect callous murderers from legal apprehension, sanction, and action.

Life has become cheap in the Virgin Islands, especially the life of the local native male. This is a national tragedy.

The Virgin Islands’ moral culture, built over decades, from the days of slavery is in severe decline. It has been replaced by the pursuit of a meaningless materialism:  a new culture of greed, callousness, and wickedness, is on the ascent. The culture is becoming criminal and mindless.

The country is losing its moral core. The moral compass- the part of a culture that directs the morality of a country- has lost its wholesome direction.

Culture is living history. Culture is the crucible that holds the community’s values and morals. Culture is the soul and heart of a society. Culture is a complex organism that requires special care and protection. If not, culture is destroyed. And along with a destroyed culture comes a declining and dysfunctional community.

The Virgin Islands is swiftly losing a moral culture that was built over generations. The chicken of poor morality has come home to roost.

A majority expatriate population, black and white, rich and poor, down island and European, has not helped the local culture. And despite enormous progress in building a multi ethnic and cosmopolitan society, still, too many residents look at this society as merely a profit center, a home away from home, and not their precious home and habitat. Too many expats are unwilling to participate in the local culture and local community. This is a part of the reason BVI traditions and values are on the decline.

OK. The proceeding story is the final narrative in a three part series.

Now Caribbean culture is a mix of Africa, Europe, North America and Native. This is what gives Caribbean culture its attractiveness and unique flavors. It makes for free, democratic, and peaceful societies. Racism and intolerance exist. But there is a cosmopolitanism that makes these islands in the sun colorful, cultured, urbane, and friendly. Freedom and democracy in the Caribbean are the legacy of a violent and bloody history narrated from the earliest days of slavery, through to late 1950s nationalism, and the civil rights and black power movements of the 1960s.

There is no doubting the fact that societies with a high degree of tolerance, personal freedom, and respect for human life and human dignity thrive. On the other hand corrupt and despotic leaders plunge their societies into conflict and war.

OK. The people of the Virgin Islands and the wider West Indies possess a traditional, colorful, and musical culture. The Virgin Islands are also a religious community. Virgin Islanders, as a result of a history of slavery, and colonialism, are accepting of the status quo, fatalistic, and peace loving. However, the rapid change from an agrarian community to a 21st century services economy has had its cultural implications and ramifications. 

Paradoxically, materialism is a threat to the country’s prosperity. Materialism, the mad rush for what is actually worthless in the long term, is destroying the rich heritage of Virgin Islands community. How? The country is in such a ‘mad rush’ to develop and ape certain foreign cultures, and its citizens so anxious to acquire the worthless lifestyles of the “Mr and Mrs Jones’ subset,” that the Virgin Islands is forgetting what truly matters: the rich historical and cultural legacy, upon which everything, especially social and economic prosperity ultimately rests.

In the sprint to a material El Dorado, the country is destroying its most precious asset: its rich cornucopia of traditions, values, and norms. It is exchanging its golden goose for a “scrawny duck: its golden egg for an empty shell.” These islands are losing their very essence.

Too many people live above their means. Too many own highly leveraged houses on the hill that will never be fully, joyfully, and happily occupied. There is no longer the concept of neighborhood. People only ever meet at the ubiquitous funeral: “see you in church or at your funeral are an appropriate and truthful greeting.” Personal debt is a mounting problem. The village no longer exists.

The older world, the yesteryear of cordiality, warmth, and community, has been replaced by a society filled with anger, hate, anxiety, hypocrisy, and frustration.

Youth feel entitled, not knowing that entitlement ultimately leads to mediocrity, failure, and crime. Deviant behaviours are on the increase. Deviancy has blossomed into violent crime and growing criminal culture.

There has been an astronomical 272% increase in the British Virgin Islands prison population since 1997, a period of approximately 20 years. This is a near threefold rise in the number of prisoners. The majority of prisoners are young men under the age of 30.

Paradoxically, and with all the new found wealth, poverty, crime, mental illness and loneliness are all on the increase. Commentators and academics will argue that this is the price you pay for modern prosperity. This Old Boy is not that certain it is.

The Virgin Islands has forgotten that true prosperity is not the number of large homes that sit on the hill, and the Cadillac in the garage. True prosperity is a state of heart that understands that true wealth begins with love of community, good character, and trust.

But whose fault is that? Like everywhere else, we love to blame others for society’s woes. We forget that the problem with the material culture is that it comes with terrible baggage: greed, selfishness, even wickedness. But, for certain checks and balances in place, a feature of Overseas Territories watched over by an “aloof” but “frugal” Britain, many a Caribbean jurisdiction would be in bankruptcy today, with even greater and more grievous social consequences, such as dire poverty and unsustainable crime.

For all the “talk about independence” Whitehall, or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, remains a critical link and artery buttressing and maintaining fiscal responsibility in Overseas Territories. But for British oversight, the lid on financially irresponsibility would have been twisted off, emptying treasuries in OTs and exponentially increasing deficits and overspending, leading to increased poverty and slowing economic growth.

Overspending is not synonymous with economic stimulus. Stimulus is intelligent and thoughtful economic policy. Stimulus is always conducted with economic sustainability and viability as a backdrop.

Being a faraway “overseer” of overseas territories, British oversight has attempted to stem the flow from the burst pipe of fiscal irresponsibility in many countries she oversees.

At the root of this “excessive and ostentatious governing culture” are the greater excesses of a ‘stupid rush’ for the material by populations who starting in the late 1970s became prosperous as defined by western social and economic theory.

Government is not a gravy train, but a manager of scarce resources. However, government and governed are in a symbiotic relationship. Government is a reflection of the wider culture. And whatever drives that culture drives government. 

Without a Big Brother in London watching over these jurisdictions, many OTs would have experienced West Africa’s tragic fate of disastrous economic and social contraction, a conundrum that has led to squalor, poverty, terror, and conflict, and that is threatening the very existence of numerous countries in Sub Saharan Africa.

That is the last thing Overseas Territories need.

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12 Responses to “The declining Virgin Islands moral culture”

  • just asking.... (18/03/2017, 08:27) Like (2) Dislike (2) Reply
    what about white collar crime?
  • fred (18/03/2017, 08:28) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    There's no one to lead. Young people don't respect our leaders. Our leaders don't respect us. The country is backstabbing, divisive, greedy and wicked people developed and live among us. White collar crime is at an all time high. Legitimate businesses are doing illegitimate things. Government is malpracticing on everything. Nobody respects the government. The people look at the government like cheap corrupt, greedy, bias, abusive. Nobody really give a dam about culture anymore. The culture is crime, victimization, cronyism, abuse, disrespect. It will only get worst.
  • Thanks Igwe (18/03/2017, 08:34) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    In the Spirits of Kedoy Penn, Nickera Smith, Alston Penn, Ashburn Dawson, and all the other souls taken from us unjustly, we will not rest until JUSTICE is served. RISE OVER OUR LAND and RESTORE HUMAN VALUES.
  • church (18/03/2017, 08:47) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
  • cay (18/03/2017, 09:40) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    Another powerful read
  • teacher john (18/03/2017, 10:22) Like (0) Dislike (2) Reply
    Not sure i understand the points!
  • E. Leonard (18/03/2017, 19:00) Like (10) Dislike (0) Reply
    Good read. Nonetheless, have to differ slightly with my friend Dickson that African and Caribbean people lack the leadership skill sets to effectively lead/manage their own affairs. This was the same thought process applied to Black quarterbacks in the NFL and Black officers in the arm forces. They didn't have the mental capacity, leadership and management skills to effectively lead an NFL teamm or lead a military unit. Both assumptions were proven wrong,e.g., Doug Williams and General Colin Powel.

    The VI people caused the social, economical, cultural and political problems that the territory is experiencing and the VI people must solve the territory's problem. It cannot act like a basket case and lean on others to resolve its problems. We need to put imperialism, colonialism and neocolonialism in the rear view mirror. The BVI has people with the knowledge, skill, ability and experience to lead it up and over the mountain. But we must trust and have confidence in our own. The electorate must stay fully engaged and hold leaders responsible and accountable. It must demand transparency. We must shed the mental conditioning that others imposed on us.
    • Bohannon (19/03/2017, 06:12) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      @E.Leonard. It is the same attitude towards guy hill who used to be in immigration.
      • Disinterested (19/03/2017, 18:44) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
        Ah, Guy Hill, highly qualified yet embarrassed, misused and abused.
    • Colonialists (20/03/2017, 05:55) Like (4) Dislike (1) Reply
      Convinced that African and Caribbean people could not rule themselves (inferior and lacked the skills, the U.K. and other European countries under pressure grant African and Caribbean countries independence yet maintain considerable influence, for example, the Reserve Power of Governors in Overseas Territories (OT). Further, many so called independent countries in the region still has the queen as their figure head. Whose image is on the Eastern Caribbean Dollar. We need to shed the training wheels and start peddling on our own.

      Furthermore, too many of still conditioning into believing that Europeans have our interest at heart and has the divine right to lead us. The conditioning was strong for we put no trust, faith and confidence in our own people.
  • turth (18/03/2017, 20:32) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    When there's topics on unslove murders in the BVI Mr.Watkins is not amounce those names Eaon M Watkins was gunned down in front his home in sea cow's bay in 2000 I don't believe in RIP if his murders are still free
  • 4 eyes (19/03/2017, 19:38) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    You hit the nail right on the head with this one my brother, as much as we don't like to hear the truth about what is really going on in our society, everything you have spoken about is exactly what's unfolding before our very eyes. GOD help us all.

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